Outsourcing is “inevitable”.
Single-player games may not be dying anytime soon, but perhaps it’s long overdue for the games industry to change its ways, at least according to Amy Hennig. She’s a veteran games developer, having worked on games like the first three Uncharted titles, Jak 3 and the Legacy of Kain franchise. Hennig has been in the games industry for more than two decades, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about.
In an interview with Gameindustry.biz, Hennig stressed that one of the biggest challenges in games development stems from human nature. As the size of teams increases from two digits to numbering in the three digits, it only gets more complicated and complex with more people in the mix.
“What doesn’t change is the challenge of trying to do a creative endeavor with a group of human beings, and that only gets more complicated as the teams have gotten bigger and bigger.
In my career, I’ve gone from a two-person team to 15 or something, then 30, then 70, and up to now. It’s just insane, right? So we all have all the same flaws we have as human beings, and then it’s amplified by having a 300-person team versus a 10-person team.”
Hennig refers to the recent alarming news of massive layoffs, which she attributes to the rising costs of games development and the aforementioned huge staff size. Thanks to these factors, she warns that making games aren’t sustainable anymore, which is what led to those layoffs tragically happening in the first place.
“I think we keep doing it that way because we have these established companies and teams, and that’s a resource, an asset you don’t want to just throw away. But on the other hand, we’re seeing news stories left and right where developers are folding and publishers are laying off hundreds of people.
It feels like something feels inevitable, because the cost of development and keeping all these people on staff, especially in expensive areas, just doesn’t feel sustainable.”
Hennig proposed several solutions to this problem currently plaguing the games industry, one of which is the eventual act of unionization and to outsource development to external parties in order to lessen the burden on in-house teams.
“Obviously that would require a big sea change in the industry — probably towards unionization, too — but you would have a lot more external partners or freelance developers as part of a team, do more things as distributed development rather than have everything in-house.
It would allow for a lot more flexibility rather than feeling that constant pressure, that churn of salaries.”
However, Hennig also warns of the possible unintended ramification of said solutions, like the question of what that would mean to existing employees in large companies. Despite that, she believes that the move to outsourcing and smaller production teams is what the games industry will inevitably be heading towards.
“That’s a shame because I don’t want to see people lose their jobs. Even saying my desire is to work at a smaller studio, it’s not because I want to see the industry shrink and get outsourced; it just feels inevitable.
And it feels more financially sound to partner up.”
Whatever the solution turns out to be, we hope that the industry learns from its mistakes, and realize that important it is to be unionized. Measures need to be taken to ensure that the rights of game developers remain protected and that the games industry doesn’t crumble under its own weight anytime soon.
We leave you with an unrelated tweet of Amy Hennig wishing the Nolan North, who voices Nathan Drake in the Uncharted franchise, a very happy birthday.
— Amy Hennig (@amy_hennig) October 31, 2018